Monthly Archives: May 2015

Rafael Nadal wore a $725,000 watch while he was winning the French Open

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Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

  • Rafael Nadal won the French Open for the 11th time on Sunday.
  • During the match, Nadal’s hand cramped up, which brought a lot of zoomed-in images of his most expensive piece of equipment, his watch.
  • Nadal plays tournaments while wearing the limited edition Richard Mille watch which is valued at $725,000.

Rafael Nadal won the French Open for the 11th time and one incident brought attention to his most expensive piece of equipment, his $725,000 Richard Mille watch.

During the men’s singles final, Nadal’s left hand began to cramp. As Nadal received treatment for his hand and he continued to massage it for several minutes after, the cameras frequently zoomed in on his hands and the orange watch.

Nadal’s latest version of the watch is the RM27-03, valued at $725,000, according to Forbes. That is actually a tad below the $775,000 pricetag on his previous RM27-02, which Nadal first wore at the 2015 French Open.

Nadal is no stranger to the world of high-end watches. In 2010 he began wearing another Richard Mille timepiece valued at $500,000. In 2013, he was wearing the first incarnation of the RM27, one valued at $690,000.

Richard Mille only made 50 of the RM27-03. It’s most impressive features are its lightweight (20 grams) yet durable construction (can withstand 5,000 Gs of force).

Rafael Nadal watch

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Richard Mille

Nadal, who’s left-handed, wears it on his right wrist.

Rafael Nadal Richard Mille watch

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Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Nadal told Tom Perrotta of The Wall Street Journal that he was skeptical of wearing the watch at first.

“In the beginning there was a little bit of transition, we had to work together to adjust everything to my wrist,” Nadal told WSJ. “It’s like you are wearing nothing. It’s part of my skin.”

According to Perrotta, Nadal has lost two Richard Mille watches that were stolen (one was later recovered) and nearly lost a third when a fellow player found one in a locker room.

The Rafael Nadal RM27-02

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The Rafael Nadal RM27-02
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Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Bubba Watson’s most expensive piece of equipment is an $825,000 watch

Bubba Watson at the 2018 Masters wearing his Richard Mille watch.

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Bubba Watson at the 2018 Masters wearing his Richard Mille watch.
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Patrick Smith/Getty Images

  • One of Bubba Watson’s endorsements is with Richard Mille watches.
  • The high-end watch maker made a model just for Watson, with a retail value of $825,000.
  • The watch has a g-sensor that can tell Watson how fast his club is traveling during swings.

Bubba Watson’s most expensive piece of equipment at the Masters costs more than three-quarters of a million dollars, and all it can do is tell him how hard he is swinging and whether or not he will make his tee time.

In 2014, Richard Mille introduced the RM 38-01, a mechanical tourbillon watch with a titanium case designed just for Watson. According to Richard Mille, the retail price for the watch is $825,000, and only 50 were made.

Beyond the light weight and style Richard Mille watches are known for, the most striking feature of the 38-01 is a g-sensor on the face that’s capable of measuring the g-force of Watson’s swing up to 20 Gs.

Here is a closer view.

Bubba Watson Richard Mille watch.

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Andrew Redington/Getty Images

It also comes in Watson’s favorite color, green, matching the two green jackets he has won at the Masters.

Richard Mille Watch

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Richard Mille

This is actually the third watch designed for Watson by Richard Mille. Watson has been wearing the watches in tournaments since 2011.

He was even wearing a previous model when he won the Masters in 2012.

Bubba Watson

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Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The high-end Richard Mille watches are no strangers to the world of professional sports.

Rafael Nadal has worn Richard Mille watches since 2010, even while playing. His latest model is the RM27-02 has a retail price of $775,000.

Rafael Nadal plays in his new Richard Mille timepiece

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Rafael Nadal plays in his new Richard Mille timepiece
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Getty Images

More Masters coverage:

The US, Japanese, and Indian navies are meeting for exercises near Guam for the first time, and China is keeping a close eye on them

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan transits the Philippine Sea, June 2, 2018.

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The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan transits the Philippine Sea, June 2, 2018.
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US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Sarah Myers

  • US, Indian, and Japanese ships are in Guam for Exercise Malabar 2018.
  • This is the 22nd iteration of the Malabar exercise, which has been focused on maritime operations and security.
  • Recent versions of the exercise have taken place amid growing tensions between China and its neighbors.

US, Japanese, and Indian warships converged on Guam last week for the 22nd iteration of Exercise Malabar, an annual exercise focused on developing coordination and training to counter maritime threats.

This year’s version of the exercise, which is the first to take place around Guam, runs from June 7 to June 16, but as the ships involved gathered beforehand, the Chinese navy was keeping an eye on the proceedings.

Indian ships sailing to Guam were shadowed by Chinese warships in the South China Sea, breaking off only when the Indian ships entered the Philippine Sea.

“We had good, polite conversation. They were there for some time, and then broke off,” Rear Adm. Dinesh K. Tripathi, commander of India’s Eastern Fleet and head of India’s delegation to Malabar 2018, told The Economic Times. “The moment we entered the Pacific across the Philippines Sea, they went back. It was interesting.”

The US, Japanese, and Indian navies are taking part in Exercise Malabar 2018 in Guam, with both on-shore and at-sea portions.

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The US, Japanese, and Indian navies are taking part in Exercise Malabar 2018 in Guam, with both on-shore and at-sea portions.
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Google Maps

Surveillance by Chinese ships, which Tripathi said was “not surprising,” comes a few weeks after Indian warships spotted a Chinese ship “tailing them at a safe distance” as they left Vietnam, following the first joint exercise between those two countries.

“We knew we were being tailed, but we were on international waters or global commons, and therefore took evasive measures,” sources told India Today of the incident.

That exercise, which ran from May 21 to May 25, attracted Chinese ire, with a Global Times op-ed calling it “a futile attempt to flex muscle.”

‘Distance actually does not matter’

Malabar started in 1992 as a US-India bilateral exercise. It has been done annually since then – with the exception of 1998 through 2002, after India’s 1998 nuclear tests – expanding to a trilateral exercise with Japan’s addition in 2015.

Other countries have participated in the past, though Indian has declined Australia’s request to take part for the past two years. (Observers suspect Chinese pressure is behind Canberra’s exclusion.)

US, Japanese, and Indian personnel aboard Japan's Hyuga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise during Malabar 2018, June 7, 2018.

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US, Japanese, and Indian personnel aboard Japan’s Hyuga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise during Malabar 2018, June 7, 2018.
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Indian navy/Twitter

Malabar 2018 consists of on-shore and at-sea portions. The former ran from June 7 to June 10, involving expert and professional exchanges on carrier strike group, maritime patrol, and reconnaissance operations as well as on surface and anti-submarine warfare. The latter portion lasts from June 11 to June 16 in the Philippine Sea, and will include military-to-military coordination, air-defense and surface-warfare exercises, and replenishment while underway.

The US Navy has sent the USS Ronald Reagan, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

India’s participants include stealth frigate INS Sahyadri and the first-in-class antisubmarine-warfare corvette INS Kamorta, which was trailed by a Chinese ship while leaving Vietnam last month. India’s fleet tanker INS Shakti and a P-8I Neptune, the Indian variant of the P-8A Poseidon, are also taking part.

Japan sent its Hyunga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise as well as two destroyers, JS Suzunami and JS Fuyuzuki.

US Navy Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, watches the end of Exercise Malabar 2017 from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, in the Bay of Bengal, July 17, 2017.

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US Navy Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, watches the end of Exercise Malabar 2017 from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, in the Bay of Bengal, July 17, 2017.
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(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Holly L. Herline)

As in years past, Malabar 2018 includes a focus on submarine and antisubmarine warfare, a capability that has grown in importance as Chinese submarine activity has increased in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

A number of countries in the region have been investing more in their submarine forces – India in particular is seeking to add submarines and Neptune maritime-patrol aircraft.

This year’s version of the exercise is also the first since the US Defense Department renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command – a shift that has been interpreted as both a rhetorical swipe at China and an adjustment to the growing interconnectedness of the Pacific and Indian ocean regions.

Chinese spy ships have been spotted lurking near US naval exercises with partners in the region in the past, and such activity is expected again during Malabar 2018.

For India, basing the exercise in Guam reflects the country’s willingness and ability to project power.

“Distance actually does not matter. Wherever Indian maritime interests are, that is our area of operation,” Tripathi told The Economic Times. “Wherever national interest takes us, we will deploy if needed.”

Russia has ‘stepped on the gas’ with its submarine fleet — and NATO is on alert

Russian nuclear-powered ballistic-missile sub Dmitry Donskoy sails under the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark on its way to Saint Petersburg, July 21, 2017.

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Russian nuclear-powered ballistic-missile sub Dmitry Donskoy sails under the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark on its way to Saint Petersburg, July 21, 2017.
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Scanpix Denmark/Sarah Christine Noergaard via Reuters

  • Russian and NATO navies have come into increasingly close contact around Europe in recent years.
  • A particular concern for NATO is Moscow’s submarines.
  • Western navies still have an edge under the sea, but Russia’s progress has them worried.

A British Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarine was reportedly closely pursued by Russian warships and subs in the eastern Mediterranean during the first days of April.

That “cat-and-mouse” encounter between one of the UK’s most advanced submarines and a Russian force that included Improved Kilo-class subs – nicknamed “the Black Hole” because of their stealth – took place in the run-up to the latest US-led strikes in Syria.

But submarine and antisubmarine warfare in general have become areas of more intense focus for both Russia and NATO, the latter of which is increasingly concerned about what it sees as Russian encroachment in Europe and the seas around it.

‘They’ve really stepped on the gas’

Russia decreased its undersea activity after the Cold War, and its navy went through a considerable decline. But in recent years Moscow has embarked on a modernization effort, putting money into developing newer, quieter subs manned by better-trained crews.

The Russian Yasen-class nuclear-powered attack sub Severodvinsk.

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The Russian Yasen-class nuclear-powered attack sub Severodvinsk.
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Wikimedia Commons

Some aspects of Russia’s naval modernization have been delayed, and some of its achievements overstated, but there has been progress. Moscow plans to built three Borei-class and five improved Borei II-class ballistic-missile subs by 2025, though delays are likely – delivery of the first improved Borei II-class sub has already been pushed back. Russia also expects to start getting a new class of nuclear-powered subs in the 2030s.

Upgrades are planned for other Russian missile subs, and Russian media has in recent months boasted about new, sophisticated attack subs and of attack subs loitering near US military bases.

“The Russians are closing the gap,” Magnus Nordenman, the director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider earlier this year. “And they have departed from their traditional sort of approach – with lots of mass and lots of submarines but of sort of varying quality – and they are taking page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead.”

The Russian Black Sea fleet's B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class sub.

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The Russian Black Sea fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class sub.
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Russian MoD

This has not gone unnoticed by NATO officials, who have warned several times in recent years that Russian sub activity was becoming more sophisticated and reaching levels not seen since the Cold War.

They’ve also sounded alarm about Russian activity around undersea cables that support global communications.

Russian navy chief Adm. Vladimir Korolyov seemed to give weight to that concern in March 2017, when he said Russian subs spent more than 3,000 days on patrol in 2016, matching their Soviet-era operational tempo.

“A major component of this resurgent Russia has been in their maritime” activity, US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, a career submariner, told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense in March.

“They’ve really never taken their eye off the … deployment of their undersea forces, but they’ve really stepped on the gas and stepped that up, both in technology and in … the amount of of time that they’re spending deployed.”

‘Aggressively defensive’

Russia has used its involvement in Syria as a sort of “test bed for showing off its new submarine capabilities,” including the ability to launch cruise missiles from subs, Nordenman said.

A Russian Borei-class nuclear-powered missile sub.

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A Russian Borei-class nuclear-powered missile sub.
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Rubin Design Bureau

In mid-2017, NATO navies shadowed the Krasnodar, a Improved Kilo-class sub, as it sailed around Europe to take up station with Russia’s Black Sea fleet. That journey culminated in the eastern Mediterranean, where the Krasnodar launched cruise missiles at targets in Syria.

In response to the sub’s presence and its efforts to avoid detection, the sailors and airmen of the USS George H.W. Bush carrier group began tracking it – an operation with which many of those US sailors and airmen had little real-world experience.

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on the USS Bush, told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

A sailor on Los Angeles-class fast-attack sub USS Springfield heaves a shot line as it prepares to moor in Toulon, France, May 17, 2016.

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A sailor on Los Angeles-class fast-attack sub USS Springfield heaves a shot line as it prepares to moor in Toulon, France, May 17, 2016.
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US Navy

Russia has said it plans to add several subs to its Black Sea fleet, which is a point of focus for Moscow – along with the Northern fleet, which has Russia’s sea-based nuclear forces and is based close to NATO territory in Norway.

“I think if you look at Russia’s four navies – Northern, Baltic, Black Sea, and Pacific – that clearly the main emphasis is the Northern fleet and the Black Sea fleet,” Nordenman told Business Insider.

“They’re the two that are getting the most in terms of modernization, in terms of new submarines and ships and training and exercises,” he added. “The Northern fleet provides you access to the broader North Atlantic, and the Black Sea fleet provides you access to the Mediterranean.”

Submarines specifically pose a threat to NATO’s ability to operate on the ground in Europe. “They can obviously sink ships,” Nordenman said, “but related, you can use cruise missiles to shoot at ports and airfields.”

This increasing activity – amid Russian action on the ground in Ukraine and Georgia – is seen by NATO members as reason for concern about Russian aggression, though Moscow sees it differently.

In late 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new security strategy that identified “the striving of a series of governments, above all the United States of America and its allies, to dominate the oceans” as a direct threat. It also claimed other countries wanted to “limit Russia’s access to resources at sea and its access to vitally important naval transport communications.”

“I think the Russian concept is sort of being aggressively defensive,” Nordenman told Business Insider. “If you can access the North Atlantic and cut off reinforcements, then from a Russian perspective, that’s a defensive move. We wouldn’t consider that defensive, but from their perspective, that’s a defensive move.”

‘Russia has closed that gap’

Sailors from Virginia-class attack sub USS California load an MK-48 inert training torpedo during an ordnance-loading exercise at Naval Station Rota, Spain, January 13, 2017.

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Sailors from Virginia-class attack sub USS California load an MK-48 inert training torpedo during an ordnance-loading exercise at Naval Station Rota, Spain, January 13, 2017.
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US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael C. Barton

That perspective notwithstanding, NATO members are still looking for ways to counter the undersea threats they perceive from their eastern neighbor.

“The Norwegians are buying submarines. The Germans are buying new submarines. The Poles are at least looking at the prospect of new submarines,” Nordenman said. “Now along with that too you see an increased sort of focus on other types of antisubmarine, submarine-hunter platforms, so frigates and maritime-patrol aircraft and stuff like that.”

Richardson, the chief of US naval operations, told the House Appropriations subcommittee in March that Russia’s increasing interest in undersea operations was “exactly why our investments [in European operations] are focused on the antisubmarine-warfare problem, both enhancing our undersea sensors and then … infrastructure for the antisubmarine aircraft, the P-8.”

In recent months, the P-8A Poseidon and other intelligence-gathering aircraft have been deployed to the Black Sea area to track the growing number of Russian subs there. The Navy is also renovating hangers and infrastructure in Iceland as part of a project to house P-8s there for patrols over the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a choke point for ships moving between the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans – though those plans don’t necessarily include reestablishing a permanent presence there.

The US Navy has also been more active around Europe.

A P-8A Poseidon aircraft in Keflavik, Iceland, for antisubmarine-warfare training, April 28, 2017.

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A P-8A Poseidon aircraft in Keflavik, Iceland, for antisubmarine-warfare training, April 28, 2017.
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US Navy/Lt. j.g. Grade Matthew Skoglund

A US military official said the deployment of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Carney and USS Ross in the Black Sea in February was meant to “desensitize Russia” to the US military’s presence there.

The Pentagon is also considering keeping the Truman carrier strike group in Europe rather than sending it to the Middle East – which would be a major departure from rotational deployments the US has conducted since the early 1990s.

Things are changing up North too.

NATO subs were a frequent presence around Norway in 2017, with more than 40 trips requiring permission to enter and exit the country’s coastal waters, often to exchange crew members or take on new supplies or equipment.

“The majority were in the north, three times more,” Navy Capt. Per-Thomas Bøe, with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense, told The Barents Observer of the trips.

Bøe said the increasing presence was linked to increasing Russian submarine activity, which in recent years includes more frequent trips between the Barents, Baltic, and Mediterranean seas. Stopping at a port or in a fjord in northern Norway is more convenient for NATO subs because it’s closer to the Norwegian Sea, though which Russian subs pass on the way to the North Atlantic, transiting the GIUK gap.

The Seawolf-class fast-attack sub USS Connecticut surfaces through the ice during Ice Exercise 2018, March 18, 2018.

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The Seawolf-class fast-attack sub USS Connecticut surfaces through the ice during Ice Exercise 2018, March 18, 2018.
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US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton

This activity extends to the Arctic, where receding ice has generated new interest in transportation routes and resource extraction. The US and British navies have shown off their ability to operate under Arctic ice, and Russia has boasted of its ability to track foes in frigid Arctic waters as well.

The Russia navy remains well short of its Soviet-era numbers, and NATO and US subs are still ahead in terms of sophistication and capability, Nordenman told Business Insider. But Moscow has whittled away at the edge Western navies gained after the Cold War.

“Russia has closed that gap and is not as far behind as they used to be,” Nordenman said. That advancement has been aided by Western focus elsewhere.

“This has not been the priority for NATO member navies, in terms of hunting submarines or the North Atlantic or the Baltic,” he added. “Beyond just sort of having a hull or having a submarine, you also need to train and exercise and have command and control and so on to to make a real capability, and that’s somewhere where NATO has fallen down over the last decade or so.”

A British sub was reportedly tracked by Russian subs in a ‘cat-and-mouse’ pursuit before the latest strikes in Syria

The Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine HMS Astute off the Isle of Skye in northwest Scotland, October 22, 2010.

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The Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine HMS Astute off the Isle of Skye in northwest Scotland, October 22, 2010.
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REUTERS/David Moir

  • Russian warships and subs reportedly tracked a British submarine in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the days before the latest strikes in Syria.
  • Russian and NATO submarines have come into increasing contact in the waters around Europe in recent years.

A British Astute-class attack submarine was closely pursued by Russian subs and warships in the days leading up to the latest US-led strikes in Syria, according to The Times of London, citing military sources.

The days-long encounter reportedly played out during the second week of April, as Prime Minister Theresa May was deciding whether to join the strikes on targets in Syria. May reportedly ordered British subs to move within missile range of Syria in preparation for those strikes.

A UK Astute-class sub in the area was hunted by at least one but possibly two Russian submarines nicknamed “the Black Hole,” The Times said, referring to the Russian navy’s Improved Kilo-class diesel-electric subs.

The Astute class “are the largest, most advanced and most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy,” according to the UK Ministry of Defense. The British sub in question was maneuvering to get within range of targets in Syria, The Times reports.

HMS Astute sailing to Faslane Naval Base in Scotland.

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HMS Astute sailing to Faslane Naval Base in Scotland.
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Flickr/UK Ministry of Defence

Two Russian frigates and an anti-submarine aircraft are also believed to have joined the search for the British sub, which reportedly spent several days trying to elude its pursuers. The British sub was protected by US Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, an anti-submarine-warfare platform.

British and Russian navies have come into increasing contact in the waters around Europe, but this is believed to be the first time such an encounter has taken place in the lead-up to strikes. The British sub in question did not take part in those strikes, however.

In June 2017, when the UK’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, went through sea trials, a Russian sub was spying on it. A Russian sub also shadowed US-UK naval drills off the coast of Scotland in August.

In mid-2017, US and NATO ships closely tracked the Krasnodar, one of Russia’s newest Improved Kilo-class subs, as it traveled around Europe to its home port with Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Improved Kilo-class subs are a mainstay in Russia’s undersea fleet, the product of Moscow’s renewed focus on submarine warfare in the years after the Cold War. Improved Kilo subs are especially quiet and skilled at operating near the seafloor in shallow waters.

Russian Black Sea Fleet's Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.

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Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.
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Russian MoD

Near the end of its journey, the Krasnodar launched cruise-missile strikes at targets in Syria, and in the days that followed US ships in the Mediterranean embarked on one of their first efforts to track a Russian sub under combat conditions since the Cold War.

Sailors and airmen aboard the USS George H. W. Bush, an aircraft carrier that had sailed into the Mediterranean a few weeks before, were tasked with hunting the sub and learning all they could about how it operated, including tactics and techniques. For many of them, it was their first real-world encounter with the complicated and dangerous art of anti-submarine warfare.

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on the USS Bush, told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

China’s growing submarine force is ‘armed to the teeth’ — and the rest of the Pacific is racing to keep up

Chinese sailors on a submarine during the fleet's review of a joint China-Russia naval exercise in the Yellow Sea, April 26, 2012.

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Chinese sailors on a submarine during the fleet’s review of a joint China-Russia naval exercise in the Yellow Sea, April 26, 2012.
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REUTERS/China Daily

  • Countries in East Asia, led by China, have been pursuing a military buildup for years.
  • Submarines, flexible platforms with strategic uses, have been a particular focus.
  • Uncertainty about the balance of power in the region has stoked countries’ pursuit of military hardware.

In October 2006, a Chinese Song-class diesel-electric submarine capable of carrying torpedoes and antiship missiles surfaced within firing range of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

“Some navy officers interpreted it as a ‘Gotcha!’ move,” journalist Michael Fabey wrote in his 2017 book, “Crashback.” It was “a warning from China that US carrier groups could no longer expect to operate with impunity.”

Almost exactly nine years later, China again demonstrated its growing naval prowess, when a Kilo-class diesel-electric attack sub shadowed the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near southern Japan.

One defense official told The Washington Free Beacon that the sub’s appearance “set off alarm bells on the Reagan,” though there was no sign of threatening behavior.

The US still “owns the undersea realm in the western Pacific right now and is determined” to maintain it, Fabey told Business Insider in a February interview. But “China has grown – in terms of maritime power, maritime projection – more quickly than any country in the region,” he added. “The growth has been incredible.”

That expansion has prompted similar moves by its neighbors, who are asking whether China will abide by or remake the rules of the road.

‘Armed to the teeth’

The Virginia-class attack sub USS North Dakota.

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The Virginia-class attack sub USS North Dakota.
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US Navy photo

Since 2002, China has built 10 nuclear subs: six Shang I- and II-class nuclear-powered attack subs – capable of firing antiship and land-attack missiles – and four Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs, according to a 2017 US Defense Department assessment.

“China’s four operational JIN-class SSBNs represent China’s first credible, seabased nuclear deterrent,” the assessment notes. Documents accidentally posted online by a Chinese shipbuilder also revealed plans for a new, quieter nuclear-powered attack submarine as well as a separate “quiet” submarine project.

The brunt of China’s undersea force, however, is its diesel-electric subs. It has access to 54 diesel-electric subs, but it’s not clear if all of them are in service, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which said China’s current operational diesel-electric fleet was likely 48 subs.

The Defense Department believes China could have about 70 subs by 2020. While it looks unlikely to build more nuclear subs by then, adding 20 Yuan-class diesel-electric subs “seems to be entirely reasonable,” IISS says.

Thatexpansion would require more investment in training and maintenance, but diesel-electric subs are potent, Fabey said.

A Chinese sub at Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base in Hong Kong.

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A Chinese sub at Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base in Hong Kong.
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Reuters

“The submarine force [China is] putting out there is substantial, and partly because they have a lot of diesel-electrics and nuclear forces,” he told Business Insider. “Those diesel-electrics especially are … armed to the teeth. They’re armed with antiship missiles that really can give anyone, including the US forces, serious pause.”

China’s subs are also stretching their legs.

In May 2016, a Chinese nuclear-powered attack sub docked in Karachi, Pakistan – the first port call in South Asia by a Chinese nuclear attack sub, according to the Defense Department. (Chinese subs previously made port calls in Sri Lanka, much to India’s chagrin.)

In January 2017, a Chinese attack sub returning from anti-piracy patrols in the western Indian Ocean stopped in a Malaysian port on the South China Sea, over which Beijing has made expansive and contested claims. A Malaysian official said it was the first time a Chinese sub had visited the country.

In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea – the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area. That wasn’t the first unannounced maneuver by Chinese subs in the East China Sea, but those islands are disputed, and Japan protested the sub’s presence in that zone.

“You’re seeing Chinese submarines farther and farther and farther away” from China, Fabey said. “Chinese subs now make routine patrols into the Indian Ocean … This is a very big deal, just in terms of what you have to think is out there.”

‘Driving the Chinese absolutely crazy’

A Chinese Shang-class nuclear attack submarine in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands

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A Chinese Shang-class nuclear attack submarine in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands
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Japanese Ministry of Defense

The US Navy has roughly 50 nuclear-powered attack subs. But many are aging, and the Navy’s most recent force-structure analysis said 66 attack subs were needed.

US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, head of Pacific Command, has said his command has half the subs it needs to meet its peacetime requirements. Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, has also said maintenance backlogs could hinder efforts to deploy additional subs in the event of a conflict.

A sub shortfall was expected in the mid-2020s, as production of new Virginia-class attack subs was reduced after production of new Colombia-class ballistic-missile subs started in 2021. But the Navy has said US industry can continue to build two Virginia-class subs a year, even after starting to build one Columbia-class sub a year in 2021.

The 2018 budget included also money for increased production of Virginia-class subs – which are “the creme de la creme,” Fabey said.

China’s neighbors are also racing to add subs, looking not only for a military edge, but also to keep an eye on their turf.

Diesel-electrics are relatively cheap, and countries like Russia and China are willing to sell them, Fabey said. “So you have this big proliferation of diesel-electric subs, because with just the purchase of a few diesel-electric subs, a nation can develop a strategic force.”

Crew members on the Virginia-class attack sub USS John Warner.

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Crew members on the Virginia-class attack sub USS John Warner.
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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

“All those countries, they’re the home team, so they don’t need to have nuclear subs necessarily to go anywhere [and] project power,” he said. “They want to just project power in their little neighborhoods, and that’s why diesel-electrics are so amazingly good.”

“When you go and you go down to the thermals, the different layers of the ocean, it becomes very hard to detect subs … and you shut off everything except for electric power – it puts out less of a signal than a light bulb would,” Fabey added.

Between 2009 and 2016, Vietnam bought six Russian-made Kilo-class subs. That force “is driving the Chinese absolutely crazy,” Fabey said, “because China can no longer just operate in the Gulf of Tonkin, for example, at will.”

Japan is also growing its navy, which had 18 subs in early 2016. In November, it launched its 10th Soryu-class diesel-electric sub, and in March it commissioned its ninth Soryu-class sub. Those subs have air-independent propulsion systems that allow them to remain submerged for up to two weeks. They also have quieting technology, can carry torpedoes and antiship missiles, and excel at navigating tough seascapes.

Indonesia, which had two subs as of spring 2017, is looking to add subs that can operate in shallow coastal waters. In August 2017, it commissioned its first attack sub in 34 years – a diesel-electric capable of carrying torpedoes and guided missiles and of performing anti-surface and anti-sub warfare.

In early 2017, Indonesia was working with or in talks with South Korean, French, and Russian shipbuilders to acquire more subs. (Jakarta has since reduced its original requirement for 12 new subs by 2024 to eight.)

A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces diesel-electric submarine in an undated photo released by Japan and obtained by Reuters on September 1, 2014.

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A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces diesel-electric submarine in an undated photo released by Japan and obtained by Reuters on September 1, 2014.
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Reuters/Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

Taiwan, whose efforts to buy foreign subs to join its four aging subs have been thwarted by China, announced a domestic sub-building program in spring 2017.

India already more than a dozen subs in active service. The country’s first domestic nuclear-powered ballistic-missile sub, INS Arihant, was commissioned in late 2016, after a seven-year development process. The next Arihant-class sub, INS Aridaman, was poised for launch in late 2017. India’s latest sub, the diesel-electric, first-in-class INS Kalvari, was commissioned in December 2017.

The next two Kalvari-class subs, built by a French firm, have already arrived. The six and last Kalvari-class sub is due to join the fleet in 2020. In July 2017, New Dehli contacted foreign shipyards with a request for information about building its next six nonnuclear subs.

India’s efforts have been plagued by delays, however. The Kalvari was supposed to be delivered in 2012 but was four years late. Mistakes have also set India back – the Arihant, for example, has been out of service since early 2017, when it flooded because a hatch was left open as it submerged.

India has expressed considerable concern about Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean, which includes submarine patrols, as well as its efforts to court countries in the region.

India's first-in-class Kalvari submarine at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015.

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India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015.
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Indian navy

Beijing has sold subs to Bangladesh, which has bought two, Pakistan, which has bought eight, and Thailand, which may buy up to four.

Countries buying Chinese subs rely on China’s naval officers and technicians for support and maintenance – which extends Beijing’s influence.

“I believe that’s a counter to the increasing encroachment by Chinese forces,” Fabey said of India’s naval activity

“What the two countries have established on land, they’re now looking to establish in the ocean, India especially,” he added. “It’s not about to let China encroach just willy-nilly.”

All these countries are likely to face challenges developing and maintaining a sub force, Fabey said, pointing to the case of Argentina’s ARA San Juan, a diesel-electric sub lost with all hands in the South Atlantic last year. But subs are not the only military hardware in demand in East Asia, and the buildup comes alongside uncertainty about the balance of power in the region.

Apprehension about China’s growth has been tempered by increasing economic reliance on Beijing. And the current and previous US administration have left countries in the region, including longtime allies, unsure about what role the US is willing to play there.

“Everyone out in Asia is on one hand scared of China, and the other hand, they need China for trade,” Fabey said. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here, America’s on the other side of the world.'”

“And there’s a sense of reevaluating China,” he added, “because if you don’t have the 500-pound gorilla from the West, then you’ve got to worry about the 500-pound dragon in the East a little bit more.”